SHO: Final Thoughts/Analysis

I have fond memories of this game, so I don’t know why I was quite so critical of it there at the very end.

I guess I was slightly disappointed in the ending with its relative shortness and that inexplicable final boss. He’s one of those “Giant Space Fleas from Nowhere”, as TV Tropes would put it. But we’ll analyze him more later.

I consider this game to be a little gem that’s a bit rough. It doesn’t have graphics as nice as the other PS2 SH games, and the story isn’t very ambitious, but I think that it came together as a nice, if not super-ambitious, package.

Some may wonder why I prefer Origins to Homecoming when they both take considerable inspiration from SH2. Well, I simply feel that Origins is more of a heartfelt homage to SH1 than Homecoming was to the second game. Also, Origins was not burdened with the expectations that come with being on a next-gen console.

As for the VGJ itself, it’s OK, if not a huge improvement on mine for Soul Nomad and the World Eaters. It included more details about the game, but the writing was repetitive.

On a side note, when blogging this journal, I had some fun finding images to insert into it. I think it taught me how to do that better.

I really loved the puzzles in this game. They were challenging, but not too hard. None of them felt unfair.

The Story

The story is OK, but it focuses more on Travis’ backstory than filling in the gaps from SH1. I feel like coming into this game with full knowledge of SH1 and 3 kind of spoils the mystique a bit, because you already know what happens in SH1 and things were explained further in 3. Honestly, though, the last thing that SH needs is more explanations about the Order cult and their demon god spoiling the mystique.

They didn’t do anything different or more interesting with Dahlia than was shown in SH1, except that she is more overtly villainous, maybe? In SH1, she’s initially a little weird, but you don’t learn how much of a villain she really is until much later on.

This game added a wrinkle to Lisa’s relationship with Kaufmann where she was exchanging sex for the drug PTV, a hallucinogen derived from the local plant, White Claudia. This drug was actually manufactured by the Order itself. Its hallucinogenic effect was key in some of their rituals.

Some fans really dislike how Lisa was shown to be having sex with Kaufmann. I don’t think that it really ruins her character, because she was always a good person that didn’t deserve her ultimate, hellish fate.

Kaufmann and Lisa

Speaking of which, they didn’t really do as much as they could have with Kaufmann, either. They could have implied some explanation as to why he got involved with the Order in the first place, but here, he’s just working with Dahlia… because reasons? LOOK A BEAR

More seriously, there was some potential there to actually function as an interesting prequel. One fan theory about Kaufmann is that he was Alessa’s unknown father, but the game didn’t do anything with that, either.

(I think that Kaufmann slightly resembles Alessa, but that just makes his actions in these games even worse, doesn’t it? Alessa got the short end of the stick with both parents, but, much as it pains me to say, she may have been better off with Kaufmann. At least he could have kept her away from the damn cult. If he WAS her father, then his learning that combined with realizing just how horrific the Otherworld is could inform his actions in SH1, but that doesn’t explain why he would boink Dahlia in the first place. Why would anyone? How did she even conceive a child in the first place? You know it wasn’t for love.)

By the way, Lisa was 16 in this game (the minimum age of consent in Maine, if Silent Hill is indeed located there). Kaufmann? Forty-three.

The game could have also tried to come up with some more interesting stuff about Alessa’s powers and their origins, but that probably would have bloated the storyline a little.

The Butcher was not a terribly interesting copy of Pyramid Head. This game only has the Butcher because someone wanted a counterpart to PH, but I’d rather they come up with their own character than just shove PH in there again. The Butcher isn’t really important to the story unless you get one of the alternate endings.

The very last part of the story feels out of place and was just plain hard to describe. It’s a shame because the lead-up to it where Travis crawls through the dark tunnel is such a good buildup, and an homage to the hallway before the final bosses in SH1 and 3. But the buildup is to a boss that seems to come out of nowhere.

His official name is “Alessa’s Dream”, and for a long time, nobody seemed quite sure what he was. It was speculated that he was just that – a nightmare of Alessa’s (perhaps of what the god would look like?), or how Dahlia saw her daughter. However, he was actually the demon in the Flauros, and was apparently an incarnation of Samael/the Great Winged Demon, the Order’s god. If so, still less inexplicable than the final boss of SH4.

(I didn’t understand that it was supposed to be another incarnation of Samael, and that Dahlia fed Walter Sullivan’s head with this idea of performing a long ritual to get to see his mother as a gambit to resurrect Samael yet again. Such a weird way of tying it into the other games, and an unreliable method of resurrecting Samael. I always thought that the final boss of SH4 was somehow the “real” Walter Sullivan, and that the reason why he was abandoned by his parents – besides their being assholes – was that he was born a monster that somehow manifested a humanoid version of himself into the outside world. C’est la vie.)

Though confusing, the last part there after Travis killed Alessa’s Dream is supposed to be the moment where Alessa was able to separate herself into the baby that would become Cheryl Mason, in a ploy to stop herself from “giving birth” to Samael. Putting the Flauros back together removed her power limiter, apparently. But I just wish I knew how a child was aware enough to pull off all of these supernatural acts while her body was in unfathomable pain from being burnt alive, and in psychological pain from being betrayed from the only person she trusted in the entire world – besides her friend, Claudia. Yet another missed opportunity there to fill in more of Claudia’s backstory with her friendship with Alessa.

Why Travis?

Why, indeed. He was the right man in the wrong place, I presume, and those can make all the difference. My theory: Alessa started to get burned, and either intentionally or subconsciously used her powers to get help. Travis just happened to be nearby. Alessa did the same thing in SH1, but with her reincarnation, Cheryl, albeit her intention there was to reunite the two halves of her soul and kill herself to kill God.

Now then, why drag Travis through a sucky past that he was unwilling to recall? I’m not sure. Maybe Alessa could only summon a soul with similar damage, or maybe the Flauros could only be revealed if someone could overcome their past, sort of like trials.

Travis seems to be associated with the Moon, which is probably done to contrast him with how the Order and Samael are associated with the Sun and fire.

The Green Lion Antique Shop

The very last place that Travis visits in the game is indeed the Green Lion Antique Shop that Dahlia owned, the very same that Harry later visited in SH1.

The Endings

The default ending ties things together pretty well with a hopeful ending for Travis. There are two other endings: a bad ending where Travis is revealed to have been the Butcher on a killing spree all along, unlocked if you kill 200+ enemies over the course of the game, and a UFO ending. The UFO ending is short and simple, but funny. I recommend seeing all of the endings in the handy video below.

The Music

This game has quite a good soundtrack. The theme songs are my favorites, but I also like “Don’t Abuse Me”, the title screen theme.

Of course, “O.R.T.”, mentioned near the beginning of the VGJ:

The good ending features “Blow Back”:

The bad ending has the more hard-rocking “Hole in the Sky”:

But my fav comes from the UFO ending, of all things, with the absolutely amazing “Shot Down in Flames”. Yes, the joke ending has my fav song in the whole game. It’s not a joke song like “Silent Hill no Uta” from SH3‘s UFO ending (which is also catchy in and of itself).

The songs’ lyrics have meaning that you wouldn’t understand unless you knew what happened in the story.

The Legacy

Good old Travis has a few cameos to his name. The first was at the beginning of Homecoming, where Alex hitched a ride with him from the hospital back to Shepherd’s Glen. About two decades after Travis’ original appearance, he’s still a trucker, but now middle-aged. His character acts a bit weird and unnecessarily suspicious. I guess his social skills regressed over the years?

Travis also appeared in Silent Hill Revelation at the very end, where he gives Heather and Vincent Cooper a ride out of Silent Hill. This was actually one of, if not my favorite, scene in the whole movie. And right after that? A prison bus heads down the opposite road into Silent Hill. Gratuitous they may have arguably been, I still enjoyed these references to the games. The movie would have been better if more love and attention to detail like those references were more prevalent throughout. For what it’s worth, I would totally watch an SHO movie with Travis’ adventure, but I have no idea how that would tie into the first movie’s continuity. Gah.

Travis has a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo at the end of the fantastic joke ending in Silent Hill: Book of Memories. I suggest that you watch it even if you hate Book of Memories. It’s funny and full of fan service; something that every SH fan should watch.

Travis’ truck has a cameo in Downpour.

A few years later, Climax made Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, which was a reimagining of SH1. They have been the only Western developer to make more than one SH game.

Trivia

The OST has a special comic illustrated by the truly great Masahiro Ito, monster designer for Silent Hill 13. This six-page comic features a Pyramid Head known as the White Hunter, who kills a winged creature that attacks him.

SHO OST Cover

It’s arguably another gratuitous PH cameo, but at least it’s a different PH this time. The idea of different Pyramid Heads existing is fascinating but will never be explored at the rate the franchise is going.

The Sad Daddy has different death animations in the PSP and PS2 versions.

Originally, the game’s development was placed into the hands of Climax Los Angeles, but the game that they came up with, well…

Writer/Designer Sam Barlow: “It was bizarre. It was supposed to be a dark comedy and, at some point, someone said that Scrubs was [the inspiration]! We pushed back and said, ‘Look, if this goes out, it will be a disaster. There’s a hardcore fanbase [of Silent Hill players]. Konami said, ‘You can change everything, but you’ve got to do it in the same time and budget’.”

Here is the E3 2006 trailer for the original build of SHO by Climax LA. It seems to imply more of a connection to the series overall than just SH1 than the final game had.

SHO has the largest number of unlockables in the series, from weapons to costumes. These are usually unlocked by completing the Accomplishments, and some of them are doozies.

One strange unlockable lets you change the pattern that the flashlight projects.

One costume unlocked by inputting the Konami Code makes Travis look a little… familiar:

Travis Collector

One really good weapon you can unlock is a pair of Moon Gauntlets. I know what you’re thinking: a melee weapon? LAME. But the Moon Gauntlets let you fell most monsters in one hit, so yeah, that’s kind of awesome. Could be good for speedruns.

Should I Buy It?

I would say yes, if you like decent horror games and want to round out your Silent Hill collection.

Phew! That was a bear. For my next VGJ, we’re going back to fantasy and RPGs in a spinoff of one of the most popular franchises of all time…

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